Carroll glad to be back in L.A.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- With the famed Santa Monica Pier to his left and a picturesque sunset over the Pacific Ocean to his right, Pete Carroll soaked up the postcard setting before him and took a deep breath.
It has been more than two months since Carroll resigned as head coach of the USC football team to take over the Seattle Seahawks, but it was hard to tell he had left as he was mobbed by cardinal-and-gold-clad fans for autographs before speaking to a group of runners at a dinner the night before the Los Angeles Marathon.
With his California tan, salt-and-pepper hair and adolescent enthusiasm unchanged, Carroll gave an inspirational speech to the runners on the eve of their 26.2-mile journey from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica Pier behind him.
"I've been back for birthdays and family events, but it's always good to be back," Carroll said before he took the stage. "This is home, and this is where all my family is. It's always good to be back and be around the kids and the grandkids."
Last month Carroll, along with USC athletic director Mike Garrett and current USC football coach Lane Kiffin, were among the members of a USC contingent that stood before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in Tempe, Ariz. A ruling by the committee after the three-day hearing is expected next month.
"Everything went very well," Carroll said. "I think the university did everything they could to put all of the truth and information out there in front of the committee, and I think everyone there felt good about the process. There are still some issues that need to be determined in the next month or so, but I don't think we could have done any better than what we did."
Carroll says he believes USC will be fine after the rulings are revealed and will be glad when the cloud of suspicion that has been hanging over the football program for the past four years has cleared.
"It wasn't a very difficult process, it was a just matter of validating the information that had already been turned in because we had already done everything we could do beforehand," Carroll said. "There were some questions that the committee asked that I was glad they asked. I was glad I was there to help out because there was some stuff nobody else could have answered and nobody else could have commented on but the head football coach, so I'm glad I was there to contribute and more than anything to help the university.
"I realized after getting there and then hearing the nature of the questioning that came about that it was necessary for me to be there. I felt good that I was able to serve the school one more time there."
As much as Carroll wanted to help the university, he wasn't sure he would even be able to attend the hearing until a couple of days before it was held, as he was tied up with responsibilities with the Seahawks.
"I really didn't have the time to go," Carroll said. "I really had to steal the time because I was so busy, and it was a whole day plus the whole coming and going. It was more difficult traveling than anything. We're working every day until we can't work anymore. I'm glad I did it and it's over, and now we can move on."
Not only did Carroll help the university at the hearing, he also helped when it came to securing USC's stellar recruiting class, which was rated by some recruiting services as the best in the country. He admitted he assured players on the fence that they were in good hands with Kiffin as well as Carroll's mentor, Monte Kiffin, Lane's father and USC's new defensive coordinator.
"I tried to help [Kiffin] along the way and make sure [this recruiting class] happened," Carroll said. "All those kids we worked so hard to get, we wanted to support him and give him any insight that he needed, and they did a fine job of finishing up and hitting on a couple of other kids we weren't on. He really made it a great class."
Carroll, however, wasn't as big a fan of Kiffin's getting a head start on his 2015 class by offering a scholarship to 13-year-old quarterback David Sills last month.
"I don't know what happened with that. I'm sure he did the right thing," said Carroll, who quickly smiled and rolled his eyes.
Although Kiffin might have a different perspective on recruiting grade-school kids, Carroll doesn't envision the Trojans changing much with Kiffin now taking the reins of the program that Carroll returned to national prominence during the past nine years.
"On defense, there's not a better coach in the world than Monte Kiffin," Carroll said. "You really can't get any better than that, and he'll do an incredible job with the challenges of that conference. On offense, they'll put together a good staff. I don't know everyone who's going to be on there, but John Morton is on there with Todd McNair, so they'll do a great job of supporting the new offense which won't be that far different from what we ran. The terminology will be the same and for the most part it will be very similar. That transition shouldn't be very difficult for them."
The transition from college football to the NFL, however, should be slightly more challenging for Carroll. He already has started to shake things up in Seattle, trading for San Diego Chargers backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst this week and signing him to a two-year, $8 million contract, which could be worth up to $10 million with incentives. Carroll said he didn't simply make the move so Whitehurst could back up longtime starter Matt Hasselbeck.
"It's always about competition with me," Carroll said. "This is an indication that we are not satisfied with what we have, and we're going to continue to bring guys in and push the guys who are the incumbent starters to make sure they're at their best. Matt Hasselbeck is a tremendous player, but Charlie Whitehurst is coming in to learn the system and push Matt."
As soon as Carroll finished giving his speech, which was filled with as many "fired up," "pumped up," and "jacked up" references as his normal pregame speeches at USC, he said he was getting on a plane back up to Seattle and continuing to prepare for next month's NFL draft.
"It's always nice to come back home," he said. "But I have job to do, and I can't stop until it's done."
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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